If New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka proved anything on Thursday night, it’s that he’s everything his team needs in a frontline starter.
The “Golden State Warriors” of baseball pulled off the trade of the offseason by snagging one of the most dominating starters — something the New York Yankees truly needed — on the market in Chris Sale.
Sale was not only expected to continue his career of filth in Beantown but to also become one of the prominent figures in baseball’s greatest rivalry. Well, in his first taste of that said rivalry, the spotlight was stripped of his firm grasp.
His opponent, Masahiro Tanaka, turned in New York’s first complete game shutout since 2014 and out-performed the starting pitcher with the best ERA in the American League since 2012. He went the distance by surrendering just three hits while striking out three and helped the Bombers sweep the Red Sox at Fenway Park for just the second time since 2006.
That’s right, the starter who is constantly stripped of his “ace” title by fans across the sport, outdueled perhaps one of the better starters in the sport in Sale.
“A lot of people thought that how well he’s been pitching up to this point, he probably would have the upper hand. I wanted to try and go in there and beat the odds,” Tanaka said through an interpreter.
What Tanaka did, which was going mono e mono with Chris Sale during the shortest Yankees/Red Sox game (2:21) since May 6, 1994, was simply what a No. 1 starting pitcher does. To be entirely straightforward, there’s no disputing the size of the 28-year-old’s influence on this team anymore. He is the ace.
— Yankees Beisbol (@Yankees_Beisbol) April 28, 2017
Since the start of last season, Tanaka’s 3.21 ERA ranks sixth in baseball while the Yankees went 23-8 in games that their ace got the starting nod in 2016. For some perspective, that win total proportions to about 120 wins per 162 games. Owning the fourth-highest win probability added among AL starters (behind only Sale, Justin Verlander and Aaron Sanchez) over the last two years is probably enough perspective for you, though.
“I’ve seen him real good but [his start on Thursday against the Red Sox] was 1 through 9 innings in a tough park against a team that could hit. But I’ve seen him pitch a lot of really good games for us,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said.
The Yankees’ pitching coach since 2011 is absolutely right. Thursday night was something else, as he shut down the offense that scored the most runs a year ago and seemed to be in control all night. Tanaka faced just 29 batters — who went 0-for-11 off his nasty splitter — and went the distance on 97 pitches, making him the 10th pitcher in Yankees history to every toss a shutout on 100 pitches or less.
Hopefully, after a start in which he shut down a potent lineup, outdueled the AL’s best starter and carried the Yankees to their 12th victory of the season demonstrated to all of you not only what the Bombers would look like without Masahiro Tanaka, but his ability as a frontline starter in the sport.
All time NYY ERA+ leaders (min. 80 GS):
1. Whitey Ford (133)
2. Spud Chandler (132)
3. Tiny Bonham (129)
4. Masahiro Tanaka (129) #NotAnAce
— Christian Kouroupakis (@ckouroupakis) April 28, 2017